Tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions…gotta love it

July 4th was a cookout day for us, as it was for many, many Americans. In addition to grilling salmon and extra-lean beef burgers, we made a variety of cold salads that I thought I’d blog about so you can enjoy them too. The first involved tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions along with cheese. Here’s a link to the the original recipe my wife found.

A fun salad for July 4th, or any meal where you want fresh ingredients.
A fun salad for July 4th, or any meal where you want fresh ingredients.

I write often here about my love of tomatoes, so how could I not love this salad? We did make one major modification however to cut the fat in it. Continue reading “Tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions…gotta love it”

Stunning tomato recipes — maybe not stunning but worth checking

As a former online news editor, I’m always amused at the subject lines publications use in their emails to increase their open rates. I recently got one from Cooking Light, for example, that had the subject line “Stunning Tomato Recipes.”

MY cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, ready for roasting
Given my love of tomatoes how could I not open an emailed with the subject line Stunning Tomato Recipes?

How could I not open that, given my professed love of tomatoes? Needless to say, I didn’t really find the recipes stunning. And several likely have more fat, salt or sugar than I want to eat, but there were some I may try and recommend to others to check out.

The tomato and cucumber salad looks tasty and I was intrigued by what “sweet peach dressing” was. Clicking through to that recipe, I founds it included sugar, which I would leave out. The peach should be sweet and vinegar fools our taste buds into tasting sweet, so the sugar is not needed. I’d also leave off the salt in the recipe for the salad itself. Continue reading “Stunning tomato recipes — maybe not stunning but worth checking”

A different option for low-salt, canned tomatoes

I’m a big fan of making my own tomato sauce (we called it gravy in my Italian-American family) to have with whole wheat pasta. Almost any prepared sauce from a store, be it jarred or canned, will be loaded with salt.

Something new to me, extra heavy tomatoes.
Something new to me, extra heavy tomatoes.

Look for the low-salt canned tomatoes when making your own, though, usually any San Marzano tomato will be lower in salt than no-name varieties, as I’ve written before. That said, I was surprised to find a new variation on canned tomatoes at our local Valli Produce.

As you can see, the can calls them “Extra Heavy Crushed Tomatoes.” I thought that was just marketing hype until I opened them. They were really thick, more like a tomato paste than crushed tomatoes. Continue reading “A different option for low-salt, canned tomatoes”

Walmart, Aldi’s, others making fresh and organic food moves

Consumer desire to buy more unprocessed fresh and organic foods has definitely gotten the attention of the mainstream food retailing world. Three articles crossed my email recently confirming that.If you want to eat low-salt, low-fat and low-sugar, fresh is certainly the way to go for most of your meals, as I’ve been advocating here since having an angioplasty in 2012.

Mondelez has to compete with fruit for the healthy snack trade, can it?
Fresh is increasingly where it’s at for today’s food retailers.

Bare-bones food retailer Aldi, which specializes in featuring sore brands to hold costs down, is making several moves in fresh foods, according to Forbes and other media reports.

“The retailer is expanding the number of fresh foods offered, placing an emphasis on the perimeter rather than the packaged and processed foods in the center of the store. It’s making sure that dairy products are free from artificial growth hormones and all private label products—90% of the store—are now free from synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils and added MSG.

“Checkout lanes are being reconfigured to replace chocolates and candy with single-serve packages of nuts, trail mixes, dried fruits and granola bars,” Forbes reports. Continue reading “Walmart, Aldi’s, others making fresh and organic food moves”

Another tasty-looking tomato sauce recipe from Recipe Rehab

Recipe Rehab is a TV show I have recommended here. It takes grossly unhealthy recipes from American families and asks tow chefs to reimagine them in healthier ways.

Recipe Rehab's Chef Richard and show host Evette Rios watching him make this tomato sauce.
Recipe Rehab’s Chef Richard and show host Evette Rios watching him make this tomato sauce.

It doesn’t always get enough salt out, in my opinion, but at least it tries. And in the process hopefully it gets viewers to think about eating healthier foods. I’ve blogged about a roasted cherry tomato sauce (we call it gravy) recipe I tried from the show. Recently, I saw another tomato sauce recipe there I plan to try as well. Continue reading “Another tasty-looking tomato sauce recipe from Recipe Rehab”

Roasted cheery tomato sauce – a great quick gravy for any Italian dish

Tomato sauce, called gravy in my Italian-American family, is something I simply do not want to live without. I now make it with only the lowest salt-content tomatoes available and have even found low-salt tomato paste. Cooking it, or rather simmering it down to its rich, luscious thickness, is an all-day process, which means when I make it I make a lot and freeze it for future use.

But I recently saw a quick version fo tomato sauce on Recipe Rehab and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t get the recipe used on the show because it’s from the shows first season and those recipe aren’t on its website. But I found several variations of the same recipe for using cherry tomatoes and roasting them in an oven to start the process.

MYy cherry tomatoes on a  baking sheet, ready for roasting
MYy cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, ready for roasting

I went with a version of this one, using real garlic and real onions instead of powder and leaving out the salt entirely. You cut the cherry tomatoes in half and roast them in the oven. Rather than add the oil and spices on top as the recipe suggests, I mix them all in a bowl to coat the tomatoes first. Continue reading “Roasted cheery tomato sauce – a great quick gravy for any Italian dish”

Trader Joe’s salt-free marinara sauce: worth a try

I wrote last year about finding a low-salt pre-made tomato sauce for the days when I don’t have any of my home-made version frozen and ready to use or don’t have the time to make some from scratch. I’ve bought Muir Glen and also found some house brand salt-free sauce at my local Jewel. Recently, though, I saw another choice at Trader Joe’s, its private label marinara sauce with no salt added.

Trader Joe's organic low-salt marinara sauce was a bit peppery for my taste but will do in a pinch.
Trader Joe’s organic low-salt marinara sauce was a bit peppery for my taste but will do in a pinch.

The taste was a bit peppery to me when I first tried it. Like many ingredient offerings that go low-salt, the makers here may have thought pepper was a good substitute. I generally just want to taste the tomatoes though. The pepper taste was still there after cooking. If you’re a pepper fan, you should enjoy it. For me it was just ok. Continue reading “Trader Joe’s salt-free marinara sauce: worth a try”

Recipe: Low-salt, low-fat baked mostaccioli

I wrote recently about my low-salt, low-fat baked mossaccioli. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making it.

Start with wheat pasta and low-fat ricotta cheese, about 13 ounces of each (these once came in 16-ounce packages but food makers have cut package sizes rather than raise prices in recent tough economic times).psta building1low fat ricotta

Combine the ricotta with egg white or egg white substitutes equal to one egg to thin it a bit, making it easier to spread. Continue reading “Recipe: Low-salt, low-fat baked mostaccioli”

Low-salt, low-fat baked mostaccioli: gotta love it

Most of the Italian-American classics I grew up with, lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, are off-limits to me now because of the fat in the cheese used, not to mention the high salt content of most cheese as well. I also can only eat whole wheat pasta now to get away from simple carbs that could impact my pre-diabetic sugar levels.

I have found whole wheat pastas I enjoy and I have begun finding low-fat and even no-fat Italian cheese. The cheeses still contains high salt levels, though, so I use them sparingly and as a treat.

One recent treat I made was whole wheat mostaccioli baked with low-fat ricotta cheese covered with my low-salt homemade tomato sauce (we call it gravy in my family).

Baked mostaccioli, gotta love it, and it's low salt and low fat.
Baked mostaccioli, gotta love it, and it’s low salt and low fat.
Continue reading “Low-salt, low-fat baked mostaccioli: gotta love it”

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